Chucho Valdés – Fantasia Cubana
(Blue Note – 2002)
by Ray Redmond
The son of the noted musician Bebo Valdés, Chucho Valdés is acknowledged as one of the masters of the Afro-Cuban musical idiom. Playing piano since he was three, he was leading his own group at 16 and eventually founded the famed group Irakere with Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera and others. Now Valdés presents us with a group of solo piano performances by such masters as Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel. Trained by Zenaida Romeu, Valdés calls Fantasia Cubana the “realization of a lifelong dream” that began with piano lessons as a boy.
On the CD Valdés also pays tribute to the great Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona who founded the Havana Symphony by performing three contrasting versions of La Comparsa. Valdés skills are evident throughout, at times wandering wondrously around like some old George Winston pieces, then resurging with an original like the percussive Wakamba. Variations on Classical Themes gives us a chance to hear Chucho stretch out and show his classical chops.